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a tv in a living room with three women performing aerobics in neon clothing

I love working out at home.

I know this is an unpopular opinion — that for many people, exercising alone in their own spaces requires more motivation, room, and equipment than they have. But for me, nothing beats a good workout done in the privacy and comfort of my living room.

I think it stems from my adoles­cence when, as a shy, artistic, self-conscious kid on the verge of puberty, I started following workout videos in the basement as a way to break a sweat, let off steam, and have fun without fear of being mocked by a crowd of my peers. My at-home fitness journey began with a disco-themed dance VHS featuring 1970s music and moves. As much as I tried to coerce my sister to join me in doing the Hustle and the Bump, I mostly danced alone.

My tape collection expanded when I borrowed my mom’s go-to workout video, featuring Jane Fonda. That tape was no joke, blending strength, cardio, and flexibility in a way that opened my eyes to exercise and set my young lungs on fire. I’ll admit, it wasn’t as much fun as dancing to “YMCA,” but I was intrigued by what Fonda — who, at 83, remains an icon in my eyes — demanded of me.

Next came a power-yoga video that showed me the wonders of asanas, breathwork, and meditation. It introduced me to the concept of a mind–body connection.

My collection continued to grow, with the addition of strength and conditioning workouts by Kathy Kaehler and Karen Voight, cardio kickboxing and abs with Billy Blanks, and several dance-based workouts including hip-hop and belly dancing. Years later, I still remember some of the routines — probably because I did them endlessly every day after school.

My dedication to working out stemmed from struggling with body image and self-confidence as a young person. I believed exercise would give me a feeling of control over my body and make me skinny. But what it actually did was provide an escape — by moving my body, I forgot that I hated my body. I was able to revel in its function and came to appreciate qualities that I hadn’t seen in myself before: strength, grace, coordination, rhythm, endurance, even a sense of lightness.

Over the years, I took these lessons and began applying them in the “real world” — at the gym. My workouts became social and routinized, pro­grammed by a coach rather than randomly selected based on whatever I felt like doing. At-home workouts became a thing of my past.

That is, until the pandemic.

With the help of my coach and a few pieces of equipment, I tried adapting my strength program from gym to home. This was great — until I realized I ­wanted, and needed, something different. I craved the sort of hodgepodge routine that had energized me in my youth.

Thanks to YouTube, I was able to find some old favorites online, like Tae Bo and a routine featuring supermodel Elle Macpherson. I laughed as I sweated through these workouts, remembering how much they once meant to me.

And I found new and amazing fitness resources: live high-intensity bootcamp classes, yoga routines, and Zumba were my quarantine go-to’s.

I had a blast revisiting the high-energy approach of my youth — and soon learned that even at 37, I’m not as young as I used to be.

I transitioned pretty quickly into high-impact workouts that elevated my heart rate and also did a number on my calves and feet. I self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and possibly a hairline fracture or two. I blamed the many jumping jacks, jumping lunges, and star jumps, and the quick-footed dancing.

Thankfully, my coach reassured me that I had simply jumped — quite literally — into these online classes with a bit too much gusto, not leaving room for my body to adapt or recover.

He encouraged me to pick up the lifting routine I had put aside and incorporate calf-focused work into my program to help my lower legs recover and emerge even sturdier on the other side. (Check out these calf strengtheners and stretches at “How to Stretch and Strengthen Your Calves“.)

These days, I’m enjoying a more balanced approach, blending the at-home favorites that hark back to my childhood with the targeted, periodized programming I know as a grownup to be the backbone of fitness. With this strong foundation, I’m confident I’ll never be too old to have fun with my fitness.

Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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